I was recently at a Q&A gathering where a dear woman asked for help. She had one question, really, but as all questions do, it came in a context. Her question was, “I try to read my Bible, but I just don’t get anything out of it. What should I be reading? What should I do?”
Now the context. She—let’s name her Alice—came from a religious home. Hers was a churchgoing family. But then Alice came to know Jesus in an intimate and personal way. She experienced his presence and his love pouring into her heart, and she came alive. She wanted that for her family as well. So with much joy and excitement, passion and conviction, she shared her new faith in Jesus with them with unguarded zeal.
Their response was anger, disdain, and judgment. Who did she think she was to belittle their faith? How dare she think she knew something of God that they didn’t? How rude!
It’s not that strange of an event. As a new believer, Alice was full of joy, innocent as a dove but not wise as a serpent, and worse—completely naïve. She was as naïve as I was when, as a new Christian, I did the same thing with some members in my family and damaged our relationship in ways that took years and much prayer to repair.
Alice didn’t know, nor did I know, that we were not sharing our faith with our family members in a neutral environment. We were in a battlefield then, and we are in one now. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
The battle is raging. Truth versus lies. Good versus evil. Love versus hatred. Life versus death.
This woman’s family rejected her faith and rejected her. They judged her and belittled her and cursed her. She felt the outcast because she was the outcast. She felt the failure, because she failed to usher them into a relationship with Jesus. She was confused by their response and felt she must have "done it wrong." And then something happened to her connection with God. The Word no longer felt alive to her. She didn’t sense his presence or feel his love. Still, she knew it was all true, and she clung to her faith. She pressed into pursuing God through Bible study and being faithful in church. But the passion, the zeal, and the joy…those were gone.
They had been gone for 57 years.
Pause. Let that sink in. Fifty-seven long years.
“Sorrow may last for a night but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Her night was 57 years. Oh, mercy.
I wanted to weep. And then I wanted to bow before her and kiss her feet. To cling to Jesus in a dry and weary land—where the cold water everyone keeps talking about never quenches your own thirst—is miraculous. She may not have experienced the outcome of her faith yet, but the gold that had been forged in her refusal to “curse God and die” has brought and is bringing untold glory to her God. Her faith had been tested, tried, and proved true. And she had suffered for it.
I’m certain there were a lot of factors going on in her life. Her story is like ours, rife with good and bad, successes and failures, gains and losses, beauty and sorrow, sin and repentance. But let me speak to this one thing…
Her faith was assaulted at the starting gate in the same way that many marriages are assaulted on their honeymoon.
Her family rejected and shamed her. They spoke words of condemnation and mockery and judgment to her, about her, over her. Those are curses, friends, and curses are powerful. The Bible takes the power of our words very seriously. “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21) Curses have a power to them that affect our lives. This is no “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” nonsense.
Jesus took all the curses against us into his body when he suffered and died on the cross. “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" (Galatians 3:13) A simple but powerful prayer to cut off all curses and judgments from us and to send them into the body of Jesus Christ—cursed for us—is powerful. (See more at http://www.ransomedheart.com/prayer/prayer-breaking-curses.)
Look. Curses against Alice’s faith battered her faith, but they didn’t take it away. Curses and judgments against her faith couldn’t touch her salvation or her place in the heart of God. Her name is written in the book of Life. She is seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Done and done. But curses can and did affect her experience of her faith. They can keep her (and us) from all the joy that she and we are meant to know. Curses at their least damaging are like heavy weights on our souls that separate us from the truth of who we are in Christ. At their worst damaging…well, too much to say there. But curses are a tool in the enemy’s hand and serve his purpose to steal, kill, and destroy.
Satan cannot steal us out of God’s hand. He cannot steal our salvation. But his lies and accusations can pin our hearts so down that we do not walk in the fullness of God’s love, know him as deeply as we can, or embrace and walk in the destiny that he has for us.
Or enjoy reading his Word and have it come alive in our spirits.
That’s how it was for me for many years. I believed. I knew Jesus was the Son of God. My life didn’t bear much fruit and I didn’t experience joy, but dang, where else was I going to go?
There is more for us, beloved. We have to take our lives seriously and realize that we are living in a war zone. Your life matters. Your heart matters. His Spirit that lives mightily in you means for you to KNOW Jesus and experience his power and his presence.
This life is a battle and it requires that we Armor Up.
The turning point for me after way too many years came in just a few hours by praying through Neil Anderson’s 7 Steps to Freedom in Christ. Okay. I’m not a big seven steps to anything kind of gal, but these are a powerful and essential starting point for every Christian. I mean it. EVERY CHRISTIAN.
Every Christian is under regular sustained spiritual attack. It comes with the territory of being a Christian. Become a Christian, and a target it painted on your back. Shield up, friends.
Back to Alice.
So here is this lovely and beleaguered woman wondering what she has done wrong and which version of the Bible she needs to be reading, when she has been the recipient of a long and sustained assault upon her heart. Alice may need a new version of the Bible, but she definitely needed prayer. She needed the power of the curses and judgments and generational sins broken off. (Just like we all do.)
But I've gotta say, what the devil meant for evil, GOD MEANT FOR GOOD. And the devil’s assaults on this woman FAILED. He meant to keep her from Jesus. He meant to keep her from knowing God deeply and operating fully in his gifting, experiencing the fruit of the Spirit, and sharing the Gospel with power and joy.
He may have kept her down, but she was not out. NOPE. In the decades of wondering, she never wandered. In the years of lack, she never listed. She held on to her faith. She continued to look to God. She persevered. And her faith—her testimony—has been through the fire. Tested. Purified. Glorifying to God. Oh, the crowns she is going to receive! Oh, the joy she has brought him.
We tend to judge other people very quickly. We are urged NOT to do it. We look at other people’s lives or walk with God and compare ourselves. We may think they aren’t living very joyously or victoriously. Or we may think they are soaring in the heavenlies on some untouchable plane. BUT WE DON’T KNOW. We don’t know what portion God has given them. We don’t know the deposit of faith entrusted to them. We don’t know how many gifts. We don’t know their internal battles. We cannot measure the value of the widow’s mite.
In the company of the Q&Aers, Alice may have looked like the least of these. But believe me, friends, she was not.
Oh, Jesus. Continue to come for her and for all of us. Let your Word be as bread to our hearts. Let nothing keep us from knowing you as you long for us to. Let us be vigilant and take the battle seriously. Help us to “Armor Up” and press on and through and fight for our freedom that we might fight for others. Yes and amen.